THE GOSPEL OF LUKE

THE JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
Luke 9:51-19:48

Call to a Radical Lifestyle
Luke 9:51-10:42

. INTRODUCTION (9:51)

For the past five chapters Luke has been relating the events and teachings of Jesus' ministry to Galilee. For ~2 years Jesus focused on ministering to the Galileans. In Luke 9:51 we come to a new chapter in Jesus' life and ministry. Whereas He may be in Samaria to the north of Jerusalem or in Perea to the east of the Jordan River, His face is always set towards Jerusalem. In Luke 9:51 Jesus said that He was going up to Jerusalem to be rejected and killed by the Jewish religious leaders. Now His focus is on the cross which will occur at the end of this next year.

Because Jesus knows that His time is limited, He will now focus less on His identity and more on the disciples. At Caesarea Philippi Jesus nailed down permanently for the disciples the truth that He was the Christ, the One God christened with His Spirit to bring about the kingdom of God. Next He showed them that He was not going to be a military leader who would establish His kingdom by force but rather He was going to be a suffering kind of Christ whose sufferings would bring about the kingdom of God. In turn Jesus was going to teach the disciples that if they were going to follow Him who suffered, then they too should expect suffering.

In Luke 9:51-10:42 Jesus continues with the theme of what kind of disciples His followers were to be. As I peruse the episodes in this passage, the main word that comes to my mind is "radical," that God calls us to a radical lifestyle. This should not surprise us. Look at Jesus. If the word "radical" does not describe His life, then I don't know what does. Little do we appreciate the meaning of the incarnation. Jesus didn't just simply become a man; He left the throne room of heaven in order to come to earth. He quit being in the luxurious form of God in order to assume the lowly form of man. We think it's great to be a man; that's because we've never experienced what it means to be in the form of God. Well, Christ left that form and that place to enter our world. That alone would be enough to call Jesus radical. Yet Jesus goes even further. He suffers the worst kind of death possible--the humiliating and excruciatingly painful death on the cross. What's more, He did not even have to go through it. Rather He did this because He obeyed His Father. Now if we follow a Christ who suffers, then we should expect to suffer. If we follow a radical Christ--and we do, then we should expect to be called to live radical lives.


CHALLENGE TO LIVE RADICAL LIVES (9:57-62)

Three different men approach Jesus and inform Him that they wish to become His disciples. They have heard Him preach, and now they are wanting to commit their lives to Jesus. Now don't make the mistake into thinking that these men were already saved and now wanted to become Jesus' disciples. Being a disciple of Jesus is what it means to be saved. Jesus doesn't say, "Go save people!" He says: "Go, make disciples." We may grow deeper in our discipleship; however, if we are not disciples, then we are not followers of Jesus, then we are not saved.

The first man tells Jesus that He will follow Him wherever He is going. The man mistakes the nature of Jesus' ministry and the nature of discipleship. The man probably thinks that since Jesus is headed for Jerusalem that Jesus is going to take up permanent residence there; from there Jesus will reign over the nations of the world. Jesus though is not going anywhere on this earth. The only place He's headed for is a cross. Foxes have holes and birds have their nests, but the Son of Man has no place to rest His head.

We've got to be careful in the way we relate to this world. I know that we all need shelter, food, and clothing to survive. Yet we need to ask ourselves, is our attitude towards our the houses we live in "This place is temporary" or am I adopting an attitude of this house is my home? A house is not a home. A spouse and children make up a home. John Bunyan deliberately characterized a genuine Christian as a pilgrim, calling his book Pilgrim's Progress. You will know the kind of attitude you have towards your home by the amount of time, effort, and energy you commit to your home. If your home stresses you out, if your home occupies too much time and energy, then you have probably not adopted Christ's attitude towards the house you live in. Jesus said, "My kingdom is NOT of this world." Your attitude towards your home will help you see whether or not you are part of this world. (The same applies to clothes, cars, other possessions, etc.) I like what Tom Gardner told me recently: "Even though the man who dies with the most toys wins, he is still dead."

How radical is Jesus' call upon your and my life? The next person wants to follow Jesus; however, he has one important task remaining before he can follow Jesus. He has to bury his father. That is a noble obligation laid upon us. Doesn't the fifth commandment tell us to honor our parents? Yes, but there is an ultimate claim upon our lives, the claim of Jesus. Nothing supercedes the claim of Jesus upon our lives. If the burial of a father doesn't supercede Jesus' claim upon our lives, then neither do the things we sell out to, popularity, financial security, relationships, sex, etc. Christ's claim supercedes all other pulls upon our lives.

In one of the most chilling statements in the Bible, Jesus says: "Let the dead bury their dead." Many people ask us how we know that things in the Bible are true. You know that Jesus made this statement because it is such a chilling statement that no one would attribute this kind of statement to Jesus unless it were true. Jesus is saying: "Since the spiritually dead have nothing better to do, let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead." It is not a put down on the physically dead; it slams the spiritually dead, those who do not follow Jesus.

The third man wants to follow Jesus only after he has bid farewell to his family. Bidding farewell to one's family is not bad; however, it is fatal if it conflicts with the call of Jesus. Jesus wants us to love our families, our friends, and even our enemies. Yet our love for Christ should be so much greater than our love for other people and other things that our love for others should be like hate when compared to our love for Christ. He is claiming ultimate allegiance from His followers.


THE RADICAL MISSION OF THE 70 (10:1-12)

Jesus continues to train His disciples by sending them upon a mission trip throughout the land of Israel. Their mission is to spread the radical message of the kingdom of God (10:9, 11). This message is not radical because it proclaims the coming of the kingdom; it is not radical because it says that the Christ will usher in the kingdom. It is radical because it claims that Jesus is the Christ who ushers in the kingdom and because it claims that He will bring about the kingdom by suffering for His people. It is radical because it claims that the only way that you can enter the kingdom of heaven is by committing your life to Jesus. Jesus does not call Himself "a way, a truth, a life." He claims that He is THE way, THE truth, THE life, and that no man, absolutely no man will ever enter the kingdom of heaven except by being in a positive, obedient relationship with Him. Christians took this claim so seriously that at the very beginning they did not call our religion "Christianity"; they called it "the Way" (Acts 9:2; 22:4; 24:14, 22).


THE RADICAL CONSEQUENCES OF OUR RESPONSE TO CHRIST (10:13-16)

Your and my responses to Jesus have critical consequences for us. If we respond positively to the message of Jesus, we will enter the kingdom of heaven, that is, we will inherit eternal life. On the other hand, if we reject the message of Jesus, we will suffer dire consequences. To be sure the villages of Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Chorazin were blessed because God the Son came to visit them and to minister to them; however, with great privilege comes great responsibility. Jesus is going to hold them accountable for their response or lack of response to His message and ministry.

Jesus was radically serious about His warnings to these cities. When He said that it would be better for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than it would be for them, He was not kidding. If you travel to Israel today, you can see the ruins of Capernaum and Bethsaida; there are only ruins there though because of a massive earthquake in the second century AD which destroyed them. Chorazin was so obliterated that there are no ruins left of her; we don't even know precisely where she was located. These were once thriving villages, now laid waste. The only reason we seek them out today is that Jesus ministered in them. That is a touch of divine irony.


CALL TO RADICAL RELATIONSHIPS (10:25-37)

We have such a natural tendency to gravitate towards and minister to people who are like us, whom we feel comfortable around. If we are truly the First Baptist Church of Corsicana, then the different groups in Corsicana should be proportionately represented in our congregation. If we are the First Baptist Church of Lily White Corsicana or the FBC of Upper Economic Corsicana, then we should call ourselves this. Jesus is touching on this very issue in His call for us to commit ourselves to radically different relationships.

To appreciate the story of the Good Samaritan, you need to understand the depth of hostility that existed between the Jews and the Samaritans. The Samaritans originally came from the 10 northern tribes of Israel, while the Jews came from the southern tribe of Judah. Early on there was division between the 2 groups because after Saul's death the 10 northern tribes sided with Ishbosheth, while Judah sided with David. After Solomon's death the animosity increased because the 10 northern tribes (the Samaritans) broke away from the Davidic dynasty under Rehoboam. After the destruction of Samaria (Israel) in the north, the Assyrians forced the Samaritans to intermarry with foreigners. They now became a race of half-breeds, somebody for everybody to hate. After the return of the Jews from Babylon, the Jews refused to allow the Samaritans to help in the rebuilding of Jerusalem and of the Temple. In retaliation the Samaritans built their own worship center on Mt. Gerizim in Samaria. The Jews now considered the Samaritans religious heretics. During the Jewish rebellion against the Greeks (168-165 BC) the Samaritans applied salt to the wound by siding with the Greeks against the Jews. Finally, the Jewish priest/king John Hyracanus destroyed the Samaritan temple on Mt. Gerizim. How much did the Jews hate the Samaritans? Whenever the Jews wanted to humiliate Jesus verbally to the greatest extent, they not only called Him demon-possessed, they also called Him a Samaritan (John 8:48).

An expert in the Law approached Jesus and asked Him what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus put the question back to the man who answered that we are to love God wholeheartedly and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The man was probably embarassed by how simple this answer was. In order to make himself look better, he said (paraphrasing): "Well, duh. Anybody knows that. My follow-up question is what I was trying to get to. The difficult part is 'Who is my neighbor?' Answer that one." That question betrays something wrong about the man. People who love don't ask that question. Only people who are legalistic try to find out who my neighbor is.

Jesus responds by telling the story of the Good Samaritan. A man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, going down the old Jericho road which linked the 2 cities. The road descends from the mountains surrounding Jerusalem to the plains of Jericho. It measures 17 miles in length. The road is narrow, twisting and turning. To the north of it at times are steep drop-offs. The road twists and turns to such a degree that many times you cannot see what lies ahead. It is so easy for bandits to be hiding around the next turn without your knowing it. Because it was a convenient hideout for bandits, this road was dangerous for the lonely traveler. For this reason few traveled the road alone.

This man though is traveling alone. He is attacked by a band of bandits who rob him, beat him up, and strip him of his clothing, leaving him for dead. After a while a priest, one who offers sacrifices in the temple, passes by the man. Some have "excused" the priest by saying that he was going to Jerusalem to conduct worship services in the Temple. At least that was the excuse he was giving himself. The only problem with that interpretation is that the man was not going UP the road to Jerusalem; rather he was going DOWN the road, that is, AWAY from Jerusalem. The priest had just been "worshiping" God. Apparently he had not experienced genuine worship because he left the man on the road, bleeding and in dire straits. Maybe he just didn't want to get involved. Maybe it was none of his business. Maybe the man lying on the road was faking it, and the priest was too valuable to risk being attacked by the man. The fact though is that the man was heartless. A levite (a helper in the temple precincts) responds the same way the priest responded.

The third figure to appear on the scene was a Samaritan. He does not check to make sure that this is a scam. He does not hesititate because this man was a Jew. All he sees is a person beaten, bruised, bleeding, a man whom he can help. He dresses the man's wounds, puts him on his ride, and takes him to an inn, instructing the inn-keeper to take care of the man, promising the inn-keeper that he would take care of any further expenses incurred.

After relating this story, Jesus asks the lawyer: "Who was the neighbor?" The lawyer refusing to dignify the Samaritan responds: "The one who showed mercy." Jesus encourages him to go do likewise. Jesus' point is that we at all times are the neighbor. If at all times I am a neighbor, then each and every person who comes into my sphere is my neighbor. If somebody needs my help and I am capable of rendering that help, then I by definition as a neighbor am responsible to give that help. The people in Africa are not my neighbors; neither are the people in China. The people of Corsicana are my neighbors because God had brought me into contact with them.


A RADICAL DEVOTION (10:38-42)

With regards to the story of Martha and Mary notice several things. First, Jesus did not ask Martha to provide a meal for Him. She took it upon herself to provide that meal. Second, she jumps on Jesus, not on Mary, for Mary's not helping Jesus. "If He's Lord God Almighty, then He just might need to kick it into gear and help me do something wonderful for Him!" That seems to be her attitude. The fact though is that if Jesus is not blessing my endeavors, it might be because He doesn't want me to engage in those endeavors. Third, food is necessary but it's not the better thing. Jesus does not blast the things of life; He just challenges us to prioritize them according to His priorities. When Jesus is speaking, it is time to sit down and listen.